Facebook Courts News Giants Into A Deal To Share Viewers, And Revenues : All Tech Considered Nine media organizations, including The New York Times and National Geographic, have signed a deal to distribute their content through a new Facebook feature called "Instant Articles."

Facebook Courts News Giants Into A Deal To Share Viewers, And Revenues

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/406481214/406505230" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

In recent years, Twitter has become the go-to destination for news junkies. Well, now that could change - at least that's what Facebook hopes. Facebook is entering a deal with nine news organizations, including The New York Times and National Geographic. The idea is that users could access their articles, photos and videos without having to leave Facebook. NPR's Aarti Shahani reports.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: It's called Instant Articles, available on iPhones only for now. And the point is to create an experience that is seamless.

(SOUNDBITE OF FACEBOOK PROMOTIONAL VIDEO)

CHRIS COX: Today, almost a billion people will visit Facebook to check out what's happening in the world around them.

SHAHANI: Facebook declined an interview, but released this promotional video featuring Chief Product Officer Chris Cox.

(SOUNDBITE OF FACEBOOK PROMOTIONAL VIDEO)

COX: And one of the huge issues we see how is long it can take for those articles and news to load.

SHAHANI: If you're trying to watch a short documentary about bees from National Geographic, you don't want the loading bar to get in the way.

(SOUNDBITE OF FACEBOOK PROMOTIONAL VIDEO)

COX: So when you tap on the article, it loads instantly.

SHAHANI: Years ago, Facebook would never have marketed itself as a news site. It was fun, social. Now, it's got brainy partners like The Atlantic. The magazine's editor-in-chief, James Bennet, says things over at Facebook have changed.

JAMES BENNET: They say they have an interest in promoting significant, consequential work, and I take them at their word.

SHAHANI: And more important, Facebook knows how to make ad money on smartphones. Coming into the deal, The Atlantic is going to accept Facebook's help with selling ads and then split the profits. The New York Times and National Geographic say they're not taking that help, so they'll get to keep 100 percent of the money from ads they sell on Facebook.

BENNET: That's interesting. I'm sure we could've chosen that option if we wanted to. We were comfortable with this approach.

SHAHANI: NPR says in a statement that it's currently talking to Facebook about this new program. Besides the money, The Atlantic's Bennet expects the deal will get him more eyeballs. And he's not worried about leaning too hard on the Silicon Valley giant and then suddenly losing editorial control.

BENNET: Look, it's not hard to conjure dystopian visions of possible futures.

VIVIAN SCHILLER: This is not a theoretical concern. This is a real concern. It's happened in the past.

SHAHANI: Vivian Schiller, a media consultant who used to be NPR's CEO.

SCHILLER: And certain organizations that had certain practices that they built in order to rise higher to the top on Facebook's site then turned out to be losers.

SHAHANI: In Silicon Valley, there's this well-known story about a company called Zynga, another content producer. They made the game Farmville. Zynga thought it was riding high on Facebook. Then the algorithm that organizes the news feed changed, and Zynga lost a ton of traffic and money.

SCHILLER: Guessing which direction Facebook is going to go and adjusting your entire organization around that is an incredibly risky proposition.

SHAHANI: That said, Schiller believes it's absolutely necessary for news publishers to enter these kinds of deals because now is the time to experiment. Aarti Shahani, NPR News, San Francisco. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the audio of this story, as in a previous Web version, we mischaracterize some aspects of the way revenue from ad sales will be handled, particularly regarding The Atlantic and its Facebook Instant Articles. All the media companies will keep 100 percent of the revenue from ads they sell that appear with their Facebook Instant Articles. If Facebook assists in any ad sales, the revenue will be split. The Atlantic will sell its own ads. But if The Atlantic has unsold ad positions, Facebook may sell ads to fill those spots. In that case, Facebook and The Atlantic will share the revenue. In addition, in the audio we say Facebook and the news publishers will split profits on ad sales. They'll actually split revenue on those sales.]

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.